Album review: Bon Iver's i,i is a joyfully experimental record

Album review: Bon Iver's i,i is a joyfully experimental record
Bon Iver in 2017. Picture: Getty

The early release was only part of the surprise of a joyfully experimental record, writes Ed Power.

Bon Iver’s Sounds From A Safe Harbour performance at Cork Opera House in 2017 was beautiful, bonkers and deeply esoteric. Much the same could be said of his fourth album, which the artist born Justin Vernon has surprise-released several weeks ahead of schedule.

Like Radiohead before him, Vernon has decided the smartest guarantee of a long-term career is to grow progressively more inscrutable. His 2007 debut was relatively straight-forward folk-pop.

But the two albums that followed saw him shroud his songs in avant-garde hip hop, electronic and even Michael McDonald-style yacht rock. The weirder he waxes the more fascinated we are by his journey from the backwoods of Wisconsin to the outer-limits of experimental pop.

Clearly, there’s no stopping him now. With i,i he doubles down on the strategy of baffling as many listeners as possible.

Indeed, the LP feels, in the best sense, like a mind-meld between 2016’s 22, A Million – where he sounded like Phil Collins covering Kid A – and 2011’s Bon Iver, which was recorded in the aftermath of his collaboration with Kanye West.

Thus long-time fans who wish he’d go back to the straightforward strumming of Skinny Love and Flume may be disappointed (they may also think their stereo has malfunctioned).

But fans of wilfully out there music will be overjoyed. On iMi, Vernon and fellow traveller James Blake battle with Frank Ocean-esque squalls of processed feedback.

A more surprising cameo is by 1980s pop-rocker Bruce Hornsby on the fluttering U (Man Like), though the real stars here are the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

The song is unsettling and soulful and, much like the rest of this lulling triumph, sneaks up on when you aren’t really paying attention.

More on this topic

All aboard for a fun-filled family trip to France on the ferryAll aboard for a fun-filled family trip to France on the ferry

Investors sniff counter offer for Peppa Pig producerInvestors sniff counter offer for Peppa Pig producer

Huawei expects reduced revenue hit of €9bn from Trump trade sanctionsHuawei expects reduced revenue hit of €9bn from Trump trade sanctions

Fine Gael TD Deasy considers US move as he prepares to depart DáilFine Gael TD Deasy considers US move as he prepares to depart Dáil

More in this Section

Ask an expert: How can I know what’s best for my baby?Ask an expert: How can I know what’s best for my baby?

August 23, 2019: A look back at what happened on this day in years gone byAugust 23, 2019: A look back at what happened on this day in years gone by

Who is Anastasia Karanikolaou? The Instagram megastar who has just launched a fashion rangeWho is Anastasia Karanikolaou? The Instagram megastar who has just launched a fashion range

5 baby-friendly destinations for your first family holiday5 baby-friendly destinations for your first family holiday


Latest Showbiz

The remake features the voices of Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux.Disney unleashes first trailer for live-action remake of Lady And The Tramp

The series will be released in November.First trailer for Disney’s High School Musical TV who released

Olsen is starring alongside Paul Bettany in superhero series WandaVision.WandaVision’s Elizabeth Olsen reacts to Tom Holland’s probable Marvel exit

Duff says she is ‘beyond excited’ to be back in the role that launched her career.Hilary Duff to reprise Lizzie McGuire role for new Disney series

More From The Irish Examiner